Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cities continue to weed out their pit-bull dogs

Leader staff writer

Many Jacksonville pit bulls are now living in Lonoke County, Pulaski County and even out-of-state as the city’s animal control officers continue to cite owners of unregistered pit bulls.

A cited owner must microchip his or her pit bulls, have them spayed and neutered and move them out of the city. Beebe, Cabot and Lonoke have also recently enacted bans against pit bulls. Ward voted not to ban the breed, and now Lonoke County is looking at revising its animal ordinance.

Judge Charlie Troutman said the county doesn’t plan to ban any particular breed, but wants to give the sheriff’s office more authority to remove any dog considered vicious.

The Lonoke County Quorum Court will look at a new draft of the ordinance at its meeting, Sept. 6. Since the Jacksonville ban went into effect in July, animal-control officers have cited dozens of residents for having unregistered pit bulls in the city.
Only about 120 owners registered, micro-chipped and spayed or neutered their dogs within the required period.

“We are getting a number of calls from residents telling a pit bull is at this address or that location,” explained Cheryl Wood with Jacksonville Animal Control.

She said officers have caught one or two registered pit bulls running loose. “The owners have to move them from the city now, too,” she said.

Overall, Wood said the city is getting the pit-bull problem under control and there have been less bites and attacks.
The Beebe City Council passed a pit bull ban in July for all but the 11 pit bulls that were registered at that time. Other owners were given 30 days to find new homes outside the city for their pit bulls.

The estimated 140 dogs that remained unregistered are now in Beebe illegally and could be destroyed.

Beebe’s ordinance also requires that owners of registered dogs build pens approximately 20 by 40 feet to ensure that the dogs don’t get out. Those dog owners have 30 days left to comply with the ordinance, or their dogs will also be subject to seizure.

The city council passed the ban in part because its neighbors were outlawing the dogs and they said their owners were moving to Beebe. The owners of the dogs that were grandfathered in because they were licensed when the ordinance was passed in July are also required to purchase liability insurance of at least $100,000, get microchips implanted in their dogs for identification and have them spayed or neutered.

Troutman said Lonoke County didn’t have the money for dog pounds and dogcatchers. “We don’t want our new ordinance to get us bogged down in the dog-catching businesses,” Troutman said. “The tighter ordinance won’t be a cure all, but it will sure help.”

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson said if a dog attacks someone, it is picked up, quarantined and if it doesn’t have rabies, released back to the owner, who must pay the bite bill.

If the dog attacks again, the procedure is repeated. That’s all the authority the county has—at this point, but the new ordinance should change that.